Fishing Small Flies
With "Fishing Small Flies", Ed Engle has given us the 2nd half of his treatise on small fly fishing, joining his prior work "Tying Small Flies" to give readers a true master's course on the topic of angling with - well - small flies. As with his previous book, I would put "Fishing Small Flies" on the short list of must read books for those anglers who are interesting in improving their fishing skills.
"Fishing Small Flies" follows a logical progression starting off with a discussion of the waters where small flies are typically found, moving on to tackle and techniques, and finishing up by taking us through some of his favorite small fly hatches - olives, tricos, microcaddis, etc. Along the way we get to look over his shoulder as he fishes some of his favorite waters, especially Colorado's South Platte River. The reading is easy - which is not to say he "dumbs it down" but rather the tone is conversational and pleasant. He spends a lot of energy telling us what he does, and why he does it, and then leaving it up to us to make up our own mind, which in my mind is far better than taking a dogmatic approach where there is little room for a reader's interpretation.
My favorite chapter of the book was the third, appropriately named "The Power of Observation", where he gives us the benefit of his years of experience as a professional guide. The number one job of any fishing guide is to find fish, and, once found, determine from the trout's behavior which fishing techniques will stack the odds of success in their client's favor. Even if you decide to skim through the rest of this book, make sure you stop and read this chapter carefully. It's a condensed course in streamcraft, with the emphasis on small fly situations (naturally), and is good reading for even the most experienced fly anglers.
The second to last chapter of the book deals with some of his favorite small fly hatches, where there is an individual section dedicated to a specific hatch. Each section contains a full page diagram about the particular insect's life cycle that is not at all busy to look at, but yet contains a remarkable amount of information. The supporting text gives solid advice on how to approach these hatch situations. Take, for example, his approach to fishing a trico spinner fall:
"Forget about cleverly timing your cast. The key to the Tricos is to simply make as many accurate casts as you can and hope that one of them coincides with the trout's cycle. Put the fly 8 inches to a foot upstream fro the trout - again and again and again. You will risk putting the fish down, but even if you do, it will probably come back in a couple of minutes."
While "Tying Small Flies" was filled with glossy color photos of tying instructions, "Fishing Small Flies" contains plenty of drawings and diagrams to support the text, with a smattering of black and white photos and a center gallery of colored photos to recap his preferred selection of small flies. The balance of text and photos/diagrams was just about perfect, as it seemed we got both the picture and the thousand words. Nothing goes unsaid, and any idea or concept that could benefit from a visual aid gets the proper treatment.
I already said this book is on the short list of must reads. No kidding. It's really good.